v. Ford Motor Company
Favorable Verdict Followed By Confidential Settlement
rear end collision fire case in which a 1974 Ford
Mustang II vehicle exploded into flames. The two
occupants of the vehicle, Devary Durrill and Bonnie
Watkins, died of burns.
collision occurred in October, 1978, a few months
following the famous Pinto recall. The Mustang II
was built from the same vehicle platform as the Pinto
and contained the same defects - the fuel tank was
mounted rear of the axle; in rear impacts, the fuel
tank would be driven forward into the axle and be
punctured by sharp objects on the rear axle and suspension,
resulting in loss of fuel and fire. Although many
of the part of the vehicle were the same as the Pinto,
including the rear axle and suspension and portions
of the fuel tank, the Mustang II was not included
in the Pinto recall. Her father owned two Pintos
in his business which he had fixed under the recall
and then sold; he had given the Mustang II to Devary
for her birthday; the dealership assured him it was
not part of the recall as and was safe.
Watkins died by fire at the scene. Police officers
and bystanders described her efforts to extricate
herself from the burning vehicle, and described seeing
her falter and die.
Durrill was pulled from the flaming car by a bystander
who described her as being burned so badly that he
could not tell whether she was male or female, black
or white. Devery lived for 7 days in excruciating
pain. She was burned virtually all over. Her parents
were able to touch her only on the top of her head.
While in the burn unit, she received highly painful
burn debridement treatment, resulting in screaming
which her parents and others could hear in the burn
unit waiting room. The pain medication she could
receive was limited due to its effects on other parts
of her system. At the time of the injury, she was
living at home.
intermediate court of appeals affirmed by liability
verdict but further remitted the punitive damages
verdict and remitted a portion of the actual damages.
The Supreme Court of Texas granted writ of error
(consenting to hear the case).
the Supreme Court granted writ of error, the case
settled for a confidential amount; the punitive
damages portion of the settlement was recovered
by the Devery Durrill Foundation, a charitable
foundation created by the surviving parents.
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